Updated: Sep 17, 2020
BY MIA STRANGE
For a couple of years now, I have tried to be more conscious about where I spend my money. I stopped shopping at Amazon after reading about their approach to workers’ rights, I no longer buy products tested on animals and, more recently, I have made the switch to ethical and sustainable fashion.
I am by no means an expert. I’m still in the phase of finding some decent brands and I’m doing plenty of frantic Googling to research my old go-to stores. I believe that buying entirely sustainably and ethically is a big change, and it takes time to adjust to that change.
One thing I have found very interesting about this change, though, is voicing the merits of ethical and sustainable fashion to others.
A few months after I started buying cruelty-free, I managed to sway my family to do the same. There was plenty of discussion about it, but for the most part they agreed that there is no need for animal testing, and that buying cruelty-free is an easy enough switch to make. We’re still working through products we’d already bought - for example, the massive amounts of Vaseline my mother somehow owned - but now we use exclusively cruelty-free products. Some of my friends have also made buying cruelty-free cosmetics a priority. So, if this switch was so easy, why is the switch to sustainable and ethical fashion so much more difficult - both to put into practice, and to talk about?
The fact that buying from sustainable and ethical brands comes with a high price tag is well-known. I come from a relatively affluent family, and therefore have the money to spend on slightly pricier clothing. Not only is this a privilege, but it also allows a much easier transition from buying fast fashion to buying ethically and sustainably.
Naturally, my family are in the same position. My mother, specifically, prefers slightly pricier but still high-street brands. These brands are making tentative steps to being more ethical and sustainable, like being part of the Better Cotton Initiative or having Codes of Conduct. Despite this, though, their ratings on Good on You are a lacklustre ‘It’s a Start’. Sure, it’s better than buying from brands that aren't trying, but if you have the money, aren’t there better places to put it? If you can buy something pricey, how hard is it to buy something equally pricey from somewhere rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’?
There are other arguments to be had, too, for those in different situations. Plenty of other friends and family aren’t in the same position, and wouldn’t be able to afford the prices of more upmarket or more sustainable and ethical brands. Even the cheapest brands with good ethics and sustainability practices are still comparable in price with the more expensive high street stores.
However, there are other ways to be sustainable and ethical. Although it’s important to prioritise where your money goes and try to spend it responsibly, buying second hand is a great way to avoid giving your money to brands that you aren’t sure are spending it wisely. Sites like eBay or Depop are well-known for second hand clothing. Buying second hand is always more sustainable than buying straight from the store, as you’re extending the life of a garment that would likely otherwise end up in landfill. Admittedly, I’ve bought second-hand a few times, but it’s never been a priority for me up until recently.
Perhaps the biggest feature of the sustainable fashion revolution is education. That’s what publications such as ELOQUĒNTIA are bringing to the table. Access to information concerning ethical and sustainable fashion is getting easier and easier - people are putting the work in for you! There are websites and publications aplenty, all enforcing the message that there are many ways to buy sustainably and ethically. It isn’t always possible for people to do so right now, but if we give people the knowledge they might not have had previously, it sets them up for a time in the future when it might be.
Conversations like these can be hard. People can be stuck in their opinions and stubborn about changing them. They like buying fast fashion because it’s easy, and it’s what they’ve always done. Sometimes, people might think you’re trying to force your opinions on them, or maybe they think you’re acting superior because of what you buy and where you buy it from.
Despite this, these conversations are so necessary. Spreading knowledge through open communication, even if it’s about a specific brand or practice, puts you on the path to changing minds. It’s important to champion the message of sustainability to everyone that will listen, because if more people are listening, more people can put these practices into action.